Homemade Southern Red Beans and Rice
from the February/March 2015 issue of Eat Drink Mississippi
1 pound dried, red kidney beans
1/2 tablespoon cooking oil
1 package (12/14 ounces) andouille or regular smoked sausage
3 slices bacon
2 cups chopped sweet or yellow onion
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 tablespoon minced garlic
Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
1/4 teaspoon red cayenne pepper, or to taste, optional
1 teaspoon dried basil
2 bay leaves
1 large meaty ham bone or two meaty ham hocks
2 quarts water
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, optional
Kosher salt to taste, only if needed
Hot, steamed rice
Sliced green onion, for garnish, optional
Hot sauce, for the table
Rinse and sort beans and place into a deep pot, adding water to cover beans plus an inch. Soak overnight or bring to a boil; boil for 5 minutes uncovered, turn off heat, cover, and let soak for one hour. Drain and set aside.
Heat cooking oil in the pot. Cut sausage into 1-inch chunks and add to oil, cooking until browned; remove and set aside. Add bacon and cook until fat is rendered. Add the onion, bell pepper, and celery and saute the veggies until tender, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, black and red pepper, basil, and bay leaf to the vegetable mixture and continue cooking for about 3 minutes, stirring. Add the ham bone or hocks, beans, and the 2 quarts of water. Bring to a boil.
Reduce heat and summer and cook, uncovered, for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally, or until beans are tender and slightly thickened. For extra richness, stir in the butter when the beans are finished. Remove bay leaves and discard. Remove bone or hocks and pick off any meat, returning to the pot. Taste and adjust for seasonings, adding salt only if needed. Serve over hot, cooked rice and garnish with sliced green onion if desired. Pass hot sauce at the table.
Cook's notes: If you need to thicken beans further, remove about a cup of the beans and mash them with a fork, returning them to the pot. For added richness and color, add a splash of Kitchen Bouquet at the end of the cooking time. If your ham bone or hocks are not very meaty, you may add some chopped smoked ham.